I love words. I love how the words we use with ourselves, with our clients, about both, changes how we approach our practice, our craft.

There’s one; craft. Craft is a word that instantly changed the way I look at design, and writing, and talking to you, my audience, my reader, my colleague, my ally.

Today I want to explore, write, talk about a couple of ways that we, us, the community, the family, can experiment with words to find some interesting results, solutions, answers.

Your words are important because your words matter.

What we’re given

The job. The project. The problem. That thing the client hands to us, as well as that thing we hand back.

Do they give us a job?

Or a project?

When they give us a job we work through it. A job keeps the lights on. A job is done by a worker (us), at the instruction of the boss (them). We don’t do what they don’t ask for, no matter how many questions we might have. They say it, we do it.

But a project? A project is bigger, isn’t it? A project has stages, and targets, and goals, and requires specialists and skills.

Or maybe it’s a problem they’re giving us?

Problems need to be solved and we’re the problem-solvers! So we offer solutions for their problems. We’re brought in when things go haywire.

“There’s a problem! Is there a designer in the house?!”

Question? Let’s say it’s a question, questions are far more interesting than jobs or projects, aren’t they?

An oddly shaped question especially so.

Questions need to be explored and understood, and we find answers by using shapes and photos, letters and colour.

So are we responding to the brief? Or are we answering the question?

Who gives it to us

What about them? Who are they?

Client? We use client more than anything, but think about the client. Who are they? Client sounds cold to me. It sounds like there’s a 50/50 chance my client is going to walk in and scream.

Client. What does that word mean? When the client leaves do you feel elevated, or does your skin scream to be washed? Does the client wear a suit and do some shady shit that you have to mop up? Does the client have a name? A face? Does the client bring you a coffee when you have a meeting?

A friend would. A friend would remember how you like your coffee and bring you one without the expectation of you ever owing them one in return (though of course you’ll bring the coffee the next time).

So what if it was friend instead of client?

What if a friend asked you a question and wanted your unique answer to it?

It changes things, doesn’t it? That one word. Friend. Friend, friend, fiend.

When a client asks a question I want to put my fancy shoes on and talk of the balance achieved by the grid system, and how the consistent use of their PMS18-who-cares branded colour helps to reinforce their message, communicating to …

But a friend? When a friend asks the kind of question that you have to go away and think about? You celebrate the answer! You call them and scream with incredible joy “ooohhhhhhh shiiiiit, you have GOT to see this!”

You give the client extra words in your sentences, you give friends extra syllables in your words.

The client. The friend. The colleague, partner, buddy, expert.

Who are they that give us a thing to which we must respond with another thing in exchange for stuff?

Maybe they’re Isabel? And maybe Isabel has a few kids, and a homey home, and makes amazing food that illuminates her ancestry to others with such force that a mouthful evokes goosebumps.

Maybe instead of “the client wants this”, it’s “Isabel asked a question”? The client demands, but Isabel wonders.

Maybe Isabel is an expert in her field and she loves her clients, her customers, her friends, and likes to sell to them, solve their problem, make their lives better?

Maybe she isn’t fighting us when she wants to change something? Friends don’t fight friends, right? Sometimes they might yell and argue, but a friend can hear the meaning between the expletives. If a client does the same, a half-dozen hands in the offices down the hall start dialling security.

When the client isn’t happy we try to prove to them why we’re right. When a friend isn’t happy we try to cheer them up.

We try to convince the client to trust our footing, but we try to help the friend see where we’re going.

Words Say Things

All the words we use are powered by the meaning we recognise in them.

Some words we give meaning to. We change and mould them to fit the shape of the meaning we bring with us.

Sometimes the word moulds us to fit its meaning.

We can’t simply call our clients our friends and expect the relationship to be strengthened, or even to be friendly, nicer, interesting.

But maybe we can start to look at the jobs they give us as the questions we have to try and answer, as if we were answering a friend. Instead of trying to help them sell to their customers, maybe we should try to help the customers smile.

For the most part this is a mental exercise, one in which you’re simply asked to think about the language you use. But by thinking about the words we use and their meaning, we’re able to recognise patterns of thought. Maybe we’re there able to change those patterns for the better.

Take note of the words you use, and make sure the ones that are changing, morphing, enhancing the way you approach your craft are the right kind of words, meanings, ideas.